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All the little pieces, p.23
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       All the Little Pieces, p.23

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  ‘Faith?’ Jarrod asked.

  ‘Do you see where I am going with this, Faith?’ asked the detective.

  She nodded again, wiping her tears with the back of her sleeve.

  ‘One of the bartenders at Animal Instincts places Poole in the club the night Angelina went missing,’ Nill pressed. ‘He wasn’t alone; he was with a friend.’

  ‘Faith?’ asked Jarrod again.

  ‘There was someone else out there with Poole the night of the tropical storm, and I think you saw him, Faith. That’s my theory. I don’t know why you didn’t tell me about him from the get-go, but my concern now is finding him because he’s a killer. He and Poole hunt women and then take turns torturing and slaughtering them in different, insane ways. My problem with Derrick Poole, the reason he’s not behind bars yet, is there has so far been no hard evidence directly connecting him to Angelina’s murder. All I got is you and your daughter seeing him with her when she was still alive. I got a great case, however, against an unknown subject wearing a red-and-black plaid shirt. I have his DNA, I have the victim’s blood on his clothing, I have the fibers of his shirt all over a crime scene where I think five women have been brutally tortured, dismembered and murdered. But I need to link Derrick Poole to Angelina’s murder; I need to link him to this unknown subject. I need more, because there’s too much room for argument.’

  She buried her face in her hands and began to sob.

  Nill leaned in across the table and handed her a pocket pack of tissues. ‘I know you called me for a reason the other day, Faith. I think you knew what it was you needed to tell me. I need to find out who the DNA on that fabric patch belongs to, Faith. And you’re going to help me do just that.’

  50

  ‘He was in the woods,’ she began, her face buried in the tissue.

  ‘Who is he?’ asked Nill.

  ‘The other man. She went with him. I didn’t think he was going to hurt her …’

  Jarrod pushed back from the table.

  Nill leaned in even closer to her. ‘With all due respect, Faith, I gotta tell ya, that’s not working. Even your own kid knew this Santri girl was scared out of her mind. Let me be frank here: People are having a real hard time understanding why you didn’t call no one. The prosecutor, me, Detective Maldonado, your own husband. Once this gets out, if the media interest keeps up like I think it will, Joe Public is gonna have a hard time understanding it, too. And you telling everyone you didn’t know no better is not jiving. ’Cause you’re a nice lady. You live in a nice house, here, you have a nice husband, a great kid. You’re smart and resourceful. You’re a businesswoman. And your husband tells me you pick up stray dogs and take in stray sisters, so you must have a big heart.’ He smiled and tapped her on the arm. ‘I think I know why you keep holding back information. Your arrest on Tuesday for DUI wasn’t your first.’

  He opened a file folder and slid a piece of paper in front of her. It was her criminal history. It was hard seeing it in print. She closed her eyes.

  ‘Let me tell you the theory I have about what happened that night, Faith. You tell me if I’m getting it right. You were at your sister’s, you had a few drinks, maybe more than a few, ’cause you said you were gonna stay the night originally. Then something happened, you had a fight, or Maggie was bitching about going home or acting up – whatever. You left your sister’s and started to drive home when you probably should’ve been sleeping on her couch. I get it. You got lost and you pulled over to sleep it off and then Angelina Santri pops up at your window and turns your world upside down. Maybe you were afraid you’d get another DUI if you called the cops, huh? Is that scenario right?’

  She nodded.

  ‘You have a drinking problem,’ Jarrod flatly stated.

  She put her head in her hands.

  Detective Maldonado shook her head at him.

  ‘Can you describe this other man?’ Nill asked.

  Faith nodded, but still didn’t look up. ‘He was in his late thirties, maybe forties. He had a beard, but it wasn’t full, it was like muttonchops. I think it was gray or light brown. He was wearing jeans and a dark shirt – it could’ve been plaid. It was open so I saw he had a, a, um, potbelly, even though he was thin. He had on a baseball cap but it blew off and I saw he was bald, he had no hair on his head. Maybe he shaved it, I don’t know. He was average height, not as tall as Poole, maybe five ten or five eleven.’

  ‘Wait,’ said the detective. ‘What kind of baseball cap?’

  ‘It was a white Yankees hat. I saw the emblem.’

  Jarrod stood up and went to the window. He ran his hands through his hair and exhaled a long breath. ‘You have a drinking problem; you need help,’ he declared. ‘It’s in your family. Maybe you can’t help it, maybe it’s a disease, but we have to deal with it. We do.’

  She put her hands up to her ears. She couldn’t listen much longer.

  ‘You drove drunk with Maggie in the car, Faith. Our daughter was in the car. You could have crashed, those men could have …’ His voice trailed off. ‘A girl is dead, Faith—’

  ‘It’s not my family!’ she screamed suddenly. ‘Leave my dad out of this! It’s you. Can’t you see that? You’re the reason I need a glass of wine at night. Or something harder while I sit there and I wait to see if you’ll come home. You and that … girl. It’s all I see, Jarrod! You ruined everything. Everything I thought we had. I wasn’t good enough for you.’

  Jarrod shook his head. ‘Don’t do this now,’ he said quietly.

  Both detectives exchanged uncomfortable glances.

  ‘It’s not my dad’s fault – it’s yours.’ She looked at Detective Nill, wiping the tears away furiously with her sleeves. ‘I wanted to tell you about the second man when we went to the police station, but I knew Jarrod would never understand. He’d look at me like he’s looking at me now, like he’s looked at me for the past three days: I’m damaged goods, Detective Nill. I already wasn’t good enough, but now I drove drunk with his daughter in the car, and I forgot her at daycare so I’m a bad mother. And I didn’t help that girl, so I’m a bad person.’

  ‘Faith …’ Jarrod tried. ‘Don’t do this.’

  She shook her head. ‘What would he think, what would he do, if he knew there were two men with that girl and I did nothing? I honestly didn’t know what those men were going to do to her, Detective. I didn’t think she was going to be murdered. But I was scared so I drove away. I was so scared. And I didn’t want to be arrested in front of Maggie, so I didn’t do anything. When she turned up dead, it sounded awful when Maggie said there was one man. I panicked. I couldn’t tell you about the second, because I knew Jarrod would leave – he’d finally have a good enough reason. And even though I want him to leave sometimes, even though I hate him for what he did with his fucking intern – this girl who I chatted with at his holiday party while he stood right there smiling, the girl who I actually bought a pair of earrings for at Bloomingdales and had gift-wrapped for Christmas – I can’t do it. I hate him for what he’s done, for all the lies he’s told, for all the times he’s touched me after he’s been with her and I didn’t know – I hate him, but I can’t do it alone. I’m not strong, Detective. I’m not smart, like you said before. I need him, as pathetic and demented and sad as that is. I need him. And I’m not ready to let go. So the next day I was going to tell you, when we went back to where it happened, but Jarrod was there with us, and I couldn’t. After that it was too late. Every time I thought about saying something, I stopped myself, because it was too late. I called you Tuesday when I walked into that bar, but by the time you called me back, it was too late again. I thought you would find this second guy on your own. I thought this Poole would confess and tell you about his friend, and the case would plea. When Jarrod was a PD he said 90 per cent of cases never even went to trial. He always talked about his clients “flipping” and how there was no “honor among thieves”. I screwed it up. I’m sorry for all of it …’

  Detective Maldonado was the first to
break the heavy silence. ‘That was hard, Mrs Saunders. I know it was.’

  ‘Faith …’ Jarrod started. ‘I’m sorry. I wish I could take it all back …’ Maybe he ran out of words because they simply stopped.

  ‘I’ll advise you what we find at his house this time,’ said Detective Nill as he rose to leave. He rubbed her on the shoulder. ‘Hopefully Poole won’t be out on the streets much longer.’

  Faith shook her head. ‘It’s not about me, Detective. I thought Poole would tell you about his partner and it would all be over, that I wouldn’t have to be involved any more. But it just gets worse and worse, when you think it can’t, and now you say there’s another girl missing.’ She looked out the window, at Maggie’s swing set that she rarely used and the pretty patio furniture that she’d fretted over picking the right stripe pattern on. She felt foolish that anything that trivial had ever mattered as much as it once did. ‘I’m not religious, Detective,’ she said in a faint, resigned voice. ‘I should be; I’ll get back there. But I want you to know that I’m praying now, Detective. I’m praying that this missing girl comes home safe to her family. And that I don’t have her blood on my hands, too.’

  51

  Derrick knew something was about to happen. He could feel it in his bones. From behind his drawn living-room drapes, he peeked out his window, but saw nothing. He knew the cops were on him, though. Just ’cause he couldn’t see them, didn’t mean they weren’t out there, pointing rifles at his head with a scope and a laser. Waiting for him to twitch so they’d have a reason to take him out. He’d spent the four-hour drive up to Ormond Beach on Thanksgiving checking his rearview, looking for that black Taurus three cars back. Then he’d spent the whole night peeking out behind curtains that smelled like boiled eggs at Gemma’s ancient aunt’s condo watching for that same Taurus, because it was always a Taurus and it was always black. His holiday had been ruined.

  Then he’d caught the news last night and he knew they were out there.

  They’d found the nest. Sitting on the bed in his stark La Quinta motel room, he’d watched as the crime-scene jokesters paraded in and out of his special place in their HazMat protective gear and face masks, wearing gloves and carrying out black bags loaded with … stuff. It had filled him with anger. He’d felt violated. Then anxious. He’d gone back to the window, looking for that fucking black Taurus in the parking lot. All night long he’d sat there, smoking cigarettes, keeping watch. He and Gemma had left before the sun was up and headed back to Boca.

  They had no evidence, but that wasn’t going to stop them from pinning this on him. Or focusing their scopes, waiting for that twitch they could say was a reach for a gun, and eliminating the problem they’d never get a conviction on in the courts with one pull of the trigger. He took a deep drag of his cigarette and blew the smoke through the crack in the drapes. All they had were fibers. Little snips of thread that might lead them to Profe, but they were never gonna lead them to him. Because he didn’t make mistakes. He didn’t shed fibers like fucking Hansel and Gretel dropped pebbles, leading the police all over the land to all the places he’d been. The fibers might seal Profe’s fate – if they could ever catch him – but they had nothing on him. Nothing. Because he didn’t make mistakes.

  He rubbed his temples. His head throbbed.

  Problem was, they didn’t have Profe. The fucking pebbles had led them to his fucking car, not Profe’s, and then his fucking door and someone was gonna need to answer, someone was gonna need to pay for those sluts’ deaths even though no one gave a shit about any of them when they were alive. But the someone who was going down was gonna be him: Derrick Poole. They had called his mother and tried talking to his crazy grandma, then they’d gone to every school he’d ever attended and tried getting someone to tell them he killed animals and lit bathrooms on fire. They were trying to build a case against him. He wasn’t so worried until he’d watched the news yesterday. And while he knew he had left nothing of himself behind, he had his doubts about fucking Hansel, which was ironic since Profe was supposed to be the mentor. He dropped the cigarette in the half-empty mug of coffee. Even if Ed had left nothing of himself behind, it was only a matter of time before the black Tauruses would be gathered outside his home and knocking on his door. Asking questions.

  Gemma stood up from the couch and started for his kitchen. ‘You want a beer?’ she asked sweetly. ‘More coffee?’

  He shrugged.

  ‘Anything going on outside?’ she asked, trying to sound casual. He knew she was nervous, too. She’d seen the news.

  He turned and stared at her. ‘Nope.’

  ‘Can I do anything for you?’

  ‘You’ve done enough. Thanks.’

  It was Fucking Gemma who had set the cops on him. She didn’t know he knew that, but she was trying her best to make it up to him, anyway. She cleaned his apartment, attempted to cook him dinner, and fucked him anyway he wanted. Maybe she was scared of losing him if he found out she had a big, gossipy mouth. Maybe she was scared of him.

  ‘I think I might get going then,’ Gemma said, fingering the belt loop on her jeans.

  He shrugged again and she headed into the bedroom. He left the window and walked over to the dining-room table. The mail was splayed all over it. First she had retrieved it from his mailbox without asking him if he wanted her to get his mail, then she had tossed it on his table, without asking him where he’d like his fucking mail placed. He clenched his teeth. He spotted a mailer from Mullinax Ford. He tapped his finger on the picture of a Ford Explorer.

  Blondie, Blondie, Blondie. What are we gonna do about you?

  That bad was on his head. Profe had wanted to kill her and her kid. String them both up and have a slow go and feed them in pieces to the gators, but Derrick didn’t kill kids. He wasn’t a monster. He wasn’t into mommies and little girls. And what did he get for cutting that bitch a break? He rubbed his pounding head. ‘I need some more aspirin,’ he shouted.

  How come Profe’s ugly mug wasn’t next to his caricature in the local section? How come the cops hadn’t announced that they were searching for two killers, not one? He had allowed her to live, and she had sicced the cops on him. Like she was so righteous. Like she was above it all. That made him so angry it was hard to think.

  He stared at the mailer. The night air was cold, the trees were dripping wet, lightning flashes erupted across a black sky. Please don’t cut me up! Please don’t make me go with him! I have a baby! I won’t tell anyone what you did to those girls: I promise! Don’t hurt that lady! There’s a kid in that car – I saw her!

  He hated when they cried. It annoyed him.

  Blondie had her own secrets – and they were whoppers. He saw her slam into that stripper slut and take off like she didn’t care. He knew she was bombed and probably sleeping it off when ironically the chick she’d mowed down an hour earlier had come hobbling back to her looking for help on that lonesome, deserted street, only to be turned away. Boo-hoo.

  He crumpled the mailer in his hand. There was nothing that was going to link him back to the nest or to those girls. That was all Ed. The only problem he had was a drunk housewife who could possibly help the police connect the teacher to the student. He hated to admit that Profe had been right: they should have eliminated that problem before it became one. Now it was a little more complicated – for Derrick, anyway. He smiled to himself. If Blondie was fretting over grocery-shopping again for fear of running into her not-so-friendly neighbor … well, just wait till she met the man who’d taught him everything he knew.

  ‘Here’s your Tylenol, hon,’ said Gemma, handing him two painkillers and a glass of water. She had her jacket on and purse on her shoulder. Ready to bolt.

  He swallowed them dry, his eyes locked on hers. Before she could ask for permission to leave, there was a loud pounding on the door.

  ‘Police!’

  Gemma looked at him like she was thinking about opening it and he shook his head – she’d done enough damage. He pushed her asi
de, just as another loud bang sounded and the door broke in with a thunderous crash. Standing there was the fat detective from the stop and lineup and what looked like an army of suits and uniforms.

  ‘Hi there, Derrick. I didn’t think you heard us,’ said Nill.

  ‘You can’t come in here like that!’ cried Gemma. ‘You can’t bust in doors! You broke the door! Holy shit! What is that about?’

  ‘Do you live here, Gemma?’ asked Nill with a frown as the army marched in behind him.

  ‘That doesn’t matter! He’s got rights! You can’t come—’

  ‘I didn’t think so.’ Nill nodded at the purse on her shoulder and then pointed at a uniform. ‘I see you’re headed out. Officer Kilpatrick’s gonna make sure you find your way home. Bye now.’

  ‘I’ve got nothing to say to you,’ Derrick yelled as Gemma was led off down his front walk. Blue-gloved crime-scene techs in khakis and polos passed them on their way in. ‘I have a lawyer! Talk to my lawyer!’

  ‘Not a problem,’ replied Nill, handing Derrick a piece of paper as the invading army spread out and marched upstairs to the master bedroom. ‘I’m not here to talk, anyway.’

  52

  ‘How’d you know where to find it?’ asked Tatiana as she took a bite out of the biggest, juiciest burger Bryan had ever seen. Mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard simultaneously oozed out every side and dripped onto her plate, along with a renegade mushroom. Bryan’s stomach grumbled like a personal locating beacon sending out electronic pings, and it wasn’t searching for the pile of shredded lettuce on his plate. It had been two days since the search of Poole’s apartment.

  ‘I hate the Yankees,’ he replied, picking at his salad and ignoring his indignant stomach. ‘I loved Jeter when he was there, but I hate the Yankees. When I was in his closet the first time, I saw it and thought, “Figures this guy is a fucking Yankees fan” and it stuck in my head. So when Faith Saunders said Yankee hat, I thought, “Hmmm … maybe.” Now we gotta see if it’s that Yankee hat. It was sitting right where I’d seen it, along with a bunch of other hats and sports equipment, from a lacrosse stick to football pads, soccer ball, tennis racket, none of which looked used. A little weird.’

 
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